Back to school. Back to seminary. Back to something new!
As I greeted students at Union Seminary’s orientation last week, I told them “I am just as new as you are! We will be learning together.”
And I feel it. So much to learn on this steep uphill curve of a new place, new people, and new systems. So many firsts.
And hey, I’ve already managed to lock myself out of my email account, lost my phone, broken a key chain, and unintentionally donated $1.35 to the soda machine. These sound like everyday indignities. First world problems. White privilege concerns. Yet when small trip-ups happen in a new situation they feel bigger, more complicated, and more ominous than necessary.
When we start something new, we can’t see where it is all going, or predict the outcomes of our learning or how small choices made in the here and now may shape our future(s).
I really resonate with new students right now. And everyone going back to school from kindergarten to college, from high school to graduate school.
Going back to school means so much to think about each minute of each new day!
Going back to school means asking which books to buy, borrow or rent (renting books, seriously?). Which books to read? Paper, digital, audio?
Going back to school means all the new technology to learn, all the new people to meet, all the new systems and local cultures to grasp and enter.
Going back to school also means asking: How will I keep track of my own aims and goals? How will I keep up with exercise, eating right and other important aspects of basic self care! Like sleep!
Change over Time
Somehow we know this is changing us. All the classes and ideas, new people, ancient wisdom, broken traditions, injustices, good and evil shaken, mixed, and stirred into our lives.
And yet change over time, growth, learning and wisdom are not easy to see in the moment, much less predict or fully anticipate. We enter new worlds and they are open-ended and under-defined. Something I learned from nursing scholar, Patricia Benner.
We can only truly see how we change over time by looking back.
Nevertheless (and this is a big one) by looking at the change over time that happens for others who are learning the same practices we are learning, there might be a way of making out at least a framework for change that is on our horizon.
Also, and not insignificantly, our own past experience may also give us hints and clues about what is coming next or what may shift for us over time.
The only way practices like learning, teaching, and ministry to lodge their best lessons in us, is for us to persist over time. So we move forward in trust, even if we cannot (and should not) leave our questions and suspicions aside.
This week’s video episode of 3MMM includes the story of David* who is a participant in the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project. He recounted to us changes that he experienced while learning to teach Bible study in his first congregational call. See if his missteps sound anything like yours?
When you look back on your growing practice of ministry, how are you seeing change over time? Where were your missteps and how did you recover?
Blessings for your journey. May it be one that challenges, inspires, changes, and renews you !
It is back to school time! And also #backtoseminary!
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*David, a pseudonym, is a participant in the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project. This story is shared with his permission.